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BM01686

Elizabeth I gold Sovereign mintmark crosslet

Elizabeth I (1558-1603), fine gold Sovereign of Thirty Shillings, first to fourth issue (1559-78), full facing robed figure of Queen seated on large throne, lis headed pillar either side, throne back of pellets in hatching, five large pellets up each side of throne back, portcullis below Queen, tressure and beaded border surrounding, Latin legend and outer beaded border on both sides, initial mark crosslet (1560-61), +ELIZABETH D; G; ANG; FRA; ET HIBE; REGINA:. rev. quartered shield at centre of ornate rose, beaded circle surrounding, +A: DNO; FACTV; EST. ISTVD: ET. EST. MIRAB; OCVLIS. NRIS; weight 15.05g (Schneider 730; N.1978; S.2812). Very light split at 11 o'clock on rim to inner circle, shorter nick at 5 o'clock, small x scratch on reverse to right of shield, otherwise practically very fine and the very rare earlier issue.

The abbreviated Latin legend translates as on obverse "Elizabeth by the Grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland," and on the reverse "This is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes," a Psalm from the Bible.

The fine gold Sovereign of Elizabeth I was a highly respected coin at the time, and was famed in the acting world of the time of William Shakespeare, as the coin of choice to be honoured with should the Queen attend a performance personally. Traditionally the Queen would honour the playwright and the star of the show with her favour reflected in the presenting of a fine gold Sovereign. We have such evidence of this in the will of the Gentleman Actor Augustine Phillips of Mortlake Surrey who was one of the first to rise to such a social status in his profession. From his will dated 13th May 1605 we can see fine gold Sovereign presented described thus "I give and bequeath to my fellow William Shakespeare a XXXs piece in gould, To my fellow Henry Condell one other xxxs piece in gould." Such a coin of honour being highly revered and not to be spent in the lifetime of the recipient.

The usage of mint mark crosslet for fine gold can be dated exactly from the survival of pyx trial records to the 1st December 1560 till some time before the 31st October 1562 though this mint mark was used for longer on the crown gold issues. It is confirmed £7,145 worth of fine gold coins were struck for this mark which includes the gold Angel and its fractions, and this figure is the smallest output in the fine gold series. The majority of £6,459 worth was struck in the first eleven months of this mint mark, with just the balance of £686 worth struck in the second year. Survivors of this mint mark are therefore very rare.

Provenance:

Ex Spink Numismatic Circular, July 1973, item 5914.

Ex Continental Collector, Spink Auction 38, 10th October 1984, lot 9.

Ex Clarendon Collection, part 2, Bonhams, 17th October 2006.

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